April is Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month!
This month is recognized as a special opportunity for educating the public about autism issues. The Autism ribbon is a special symbol of the need for increased education and awareness. The puzzle pattern of the ribbon reflects the mystery and complexity of the autism spectrum, while the various colors and shapes represent the diversity of individuals living with this condition. The brightness of the ribbon signals hope for individuals with autism to live fuller and richer lives.
Autism now affects one in 88 children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Increasing public awareness about Autism spectrum disorders is a key step towards removing the barriers faced by individuals with autism and their families.
Autism Research Updates
New studies emerge each day shedding light onto the possible causes of autism. The most recent noteworthy findings have been by a team of researchers led by Mark Daly, Ph.D., of the Harvard/MIT Broad Institute, Cambridge, Mass., Matthew State, M.D., Ph.D., of Yale University, New Haven, Conn., and Evan Eichler, Ph.D., of the University of Washington, Seattle, who reported on their findings online April 4, 2012 in the journal Nature. Fathers were found to be four times more likely than mothers to transmit tiny, spontaneous gene mutations to their children and the number of these mutations appears to increase with paternal age.
These three studies drew upon a sample of 549 families to maximize statistical power. They revealed sporadic mutations widely distributed across the genome, sometimes resulting increased in autism risk and sometimes not. The results indicated that it is not the size of the genetic anomaly that increases risk, but its location in the biochemical pathways involved in brain development. State’s team found that 14 percent of people with autism showed the suspected gene mutations – five times the normal rate. Eichler and colleagues traced 39 percent of such mutations to having an impact on a biological pathway known to be important for communication in the brain. When considering these findings, it is important to highlight that they only indicate some autism to be genetic. Thomas Insel, in his NIMH Director’s blog entitled “The New Genetics of Autism – Why Environment Matters” states that the increasing prevalence of autism suggests that environmental factors such as chemicals and microbes may be at fault, given that genes change over generations, not decades.
He goes on to point out that environmental factors can cause changes in our DNA that can raise the risk for autism and other disorders. It is presumed that with advancing paternal age, there are a greater number of spontaneous mutations, perhaps due to environmental variables, and a higher likelihood that some of these will present a genetic risk for autism. It is important to be cognizant of the role of both nature and nurture and to recognize that there are multiple pathways to autism. Thomas Insel points out that even when autism is genetic, the genetic mutations may be spontaneous and not inherited in the sense that one or both parents carry some form of the syndrome.
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- Pursuing Your BCBA? What You Need to Know!
- Proposed Revisions to the DSM
- What is Ethics & Why is it important?
- Ethical Considerations at WWA
- Autism & Mood Disorders
- Upcoming Events
- Summer Camps & Day Events
- Employment Opportunities at WWA
Pursuing Your BCBA? What You Need to Know!
The academic content required to complete a BCBA certificate program will be changing after 2014. In addition, the requirements to sit for the BCBA exam will change as well after 2014. As Applied Behavior Analysis becomes more well known (only evidenced based treatment, proven effective etc), the need for more BCBAs will continue to grow.
The Fourth Edition Task List
The Fourth Edition Task List will include new/revised test questions from content specific to Applied Behavior Analysis that is not currently included in the Third Edition Task List. These new questions will be derived directly from the recently revised coursework included in the “New Requirements” presented below for BCBA certificate programs. These new standards will not be implemented for the BCBA examination until 2015.
New Coursework Requirements:
- Effective January 2011, an applicant must have the appropriate degree “from an accredited university, that was conferred in behavior analysis or other natural science, education, human services, engineering, medicine or a field related to behavior analysis and approved by the BACB.”
- If your degree was conferred in behavior analysis or one of the approved academic areas listed below, you do not need to take any action.
- Clinical, counseling, or school psychology
- Clinical social work
- Occupational therapy
- Speech/language therapy
Change in Eligibility Documentation
Effective May 22, 2011, the BACB will require primary source verification, such as official transcripts, for all degrees and coursework. This means we will no longer accept unofficial transcripts or photocopies or faxes of documents.
Proposed Revisions to the DSM-V for Autistic Disorder
Autistic Disorder (DSM IV-TR: 299.0) is one of the five Pervasive Developmental Disorders, usually referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). These include Autistic Disorder, Rett’s Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified as classified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The DSM is published by the American Psychiatric Association. It is used in varying degrees around the world by clinicians, researchers, psychiatric drug regulation agencies, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, policy makers etc. The DSM clearly states the criteria necessary for an individual to receive a diagnosis from the DSM.
The current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is the fourth edition and text revision (DSM-IV-TR). The DSM is undergoing another revision (DSM-V or Fifth Edition) which is currently in consultation, planning and preparation for a publication scheduled for May 2013. This is an important event because the Fifth Edition DSM may revise the criteria necessary for an individual to receive a diagnosis of Autistic Disorder. This may have an impact on the eligibility of services if a diagnosis is not provided. More information on the current revisions can be found by going to the American Psychiatric Association website.
To summarize, the current 5 Pervasive Developmental Disorders appear to be merged into one classification (Autism Spectrum Disorder). In addition, the criteria to receive such a diagnosis can be considered more stringent, as an individual must have 3 behaviors in one of the domains, and 2 in the other domain. This is a contrast from requiring 6 out of 12 behaviors across 3 domains in the current DSM. There may be other changes as well.
Autism Speaks, an organization dedicated to autism research and raising public awareness about autism and its effects on individuals, families, and society has issued a response to the proposed DSM changes.
February 2, 2012
“Autism Speaks is concerned that planned revisions to the definition of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may restrict diagnoses in ways that may deny vital medical treatments and social services to some people on the autism spectrum. These revisions concern the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), scheduled for publication in spring 2013.”
“We have voiced our concerns……to ensure that the proposed revision does not discriminate against anyone living with autism….we have concluded that the real-life impact of the revisions has, to date, been insufficiently evaluated.”
“…Autism Speaks will be working with leading experts in the field as well as community stakeholders to evaluate the potential impact of the DSM revision on our community and to ensure that all necessary adjustments be made to assure access to vital treatment and social support resources for all those who struggle with the symptoms of autism.”
At this point in time, it is not certain what impact the proposed changes in the DSM-5 will have. Well known and established organizations such as Autism Speaks and others will continue to act as advocates to ensure that medical treatments and social services can be accessed by people on the autism spectrum. To assist, we can continue to remain informed, share and educate others about these changes, and are ready to act if called upon by such organizations.
What is Ethics & Why is it Important?
Ethics describes behaviors, practices, and decisions that address three basic and fundamental questions as: What is the right thing to do? What’s worth doing? What does it mean to be a good behavior analyst?
What is the Right Thing To Do?
In order to answer “What is the right thing to do”, we must take into account personal histories, including cultural and religious experiences, which influence how practitioners decide a course of action in any given situation. Ethical practices are derived from other behavior analysts and professionals to ensure the well-being of clients, the profession itself, and the culture as a whole. We also have to look at the context of practice. Applied Behavior Analysts work in schools, homes, and community settings. Rules within these environments cover a range of behaviors. Included in the rules are policy statements that are designed to help practitioners differentiate between legal issues and ethical issues. Finally, one must follow ethical codes of behavior. All professional organizations have created or adopted ethical codes of behavior. These codes provide guidelines for association members to consider when deciding a course of action or conducting their professional duties. The Association for Behavior Analysis has adopted the American Psychological Association’s Code of Ethics.
What is worth doing?
Questions related to “What is worth doing” directly address the goals and objectives of practice. What are we trying to accomplish? How are we trying to accomplish it? Social validity (how is this behavior socially significant and important), cost-benefit ratio (does the potential benefit to the individual justify the short and long term cost for providing the service), and existing exigencies enter into decision making about what is worth doing.
What does it mean to be a good behavior analyst
“What does it mean to be a good behavior analyst”? A good behavior analyst has to follow and adhere to professional codes of conduct, keep the client’s welfare at the forefront of decision making, and follow the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you). Most importantly, a good practitioner is self-regulating. “The ethical practitioner seeks ways to calibrate decisions over time to ensure that values, contingencies, and rights and responsibilities are integrated and an informed combination of these is considered” (Smith, 1993).
Ethics is Important
Ethics is important because it helps practitioners decide whether a course of action is morally right or wrong and it helps keep the client’s welfare at the forefront of ethical decision making. Abiding by ethical standards helps protect behavior analysts from relying on “situational ethics,” where decisions are based on expediency, pressure, or misguided priorities. Ethics increase the likelihood that appropriate services will be rendered to individuals.
Ethical Considerations at WWA
Behavior Implementation Instructors (BIIs) at WWA are expected to always uphold the highest standards of professional practice and follow all ethical principles and codes of conduct. In this summary, we will only review a handful of the established ethical guidelines (e.g., Professional Development, Confidentiality, Maintaining Records, Accuracy of Data Collection, and Reinforcement / Punishment). For a complete list and explanation of all guidelines please visit the BACB website (www.bacb.com).
WWA recommends that all staff should undertake ongoing efforts to maintain their Professional Development by reading appropriate literature, attending conferences and conventions, participating in workshops, and/or obtaining their Behavior Analyst Certification Board certification. Your supervisors are always here to point you in the right direction if you ever need any recommendations for books to read, articles to review, upcoming conferences, informative workshops, or information on BCBA certification.
BII’s have a primary obligation to respect the Confidentiality of those with whom they work or consult. It is important to remember that one should only discuss confidential information obtained in direct, clinical, or consulting relationships, for professional purposes only and with persons directly related to the case. With regard to Maintaining Records, as BII’s you will find yourself, from time to time, creating, storing, accessing, transferring, or disposing of confidential records (e.g., Data Collection forms, Welligent notes, SSP reports, etc.). It is your responsibility to maintain and dispose of the above mentioned records in accordance with applicable law/regulation and company policy.
With regard to Accuracy of Data Collection, BII’s should never fabricate data or falsify results in their documentation. Data documentation can be difficult and time consuming but it is with these results that your Case Supervisors determines whether or not to revise a Behavior Intervention Treatment Plan or modify programming and protocols. If you find yourself having difficulty with data collection, please contact your Case Supervisor to set up a time to review data collection procedures. The last guideline that will be discussed is Reinforcement / Punishment. BII’s should always practice and recommend reinforcement procedures rather than punishment procedures whenever possible. If punishment procedures are necessary, please consult your Case Supervisor first, so as to set up a plan of action. Be sure to always include reinforcement procedures for alternative behavior in the program.
Autism and Mood Disorders
Mood and anxiety issues can have a notable impact on the behaviors, relationships, and overall functioning of children with autism spectrum disorders. A study conducted by Joseph Kim and his colleagues demonstrated a higher rate of anxiety and depression problems in children with autism and Asperger syndrome compared to typical peers. This study compared 59, 9 to 14 year old children with a diagnosis of autism or Asperger syndrome (AS), to a sample of 1751 community children. Not only did children with AS and autism have a higher prevalence of anxiety and mood problems, but this also had a significant impact on their adaptive functioning and their family’s functioning. There was no difference found in the rate of anxiety and mood problems between the children with AS versus autism in this cohort.
The children in this study were originally identified at 4-6 years of age. They had a diagnosis of autism or AS based on data from the Autism Diagnostic Interview (ADI: Le Couteur et al., 1989). They also had either a Leiter IQ score above 68 or a Standford-Binet IQ score above 70. Families were contacted roughly 6 years after their initial enrollment after the study. The mean age of the children at this time was 12 years. There were 19 children in the AS group and 40 in the autism group at the time of follow up. Follow up consisted of administering a modified version of a parent questionnaire (the OCHS-R), which was used in the 1983 Ontario Child Health Study, and is itself a revision of the Child Behavior Checklist (Achenbach and Edelbrock, 1983). Based on this parent report measure, a substantial portion of children scored at the “clinically relevant” levels on several scales, including depression and anxiety. The most common type of problem was depression, as reported for almost a fifth of the cohort. Furthermore, the mood problems had an impact on the parents’ and children’s lives. For instance, children with anxiety and mood problems were more aggressive, limited their parents’ social activities and had poorer relationships with teachers, peers and family members.
The study was unable to identify strong risk factors for these problems in anxiety and mood. There were no differences in anxiety and mood measures between children with autism or AS. There was no correlation between a higher level of repetitive stereotypic behavior and a higher level of anxiety symptoms. Children who had lower non-verbal skills and higher verbal skills at enrolment demonstrated a higher level of anxiety and mood problems 6 years later.
The clinical implication of this study is a clear need for an evaluation of anxiety and mood problems in children with autism and ASD. Interventions that alleviate these symptoms may play a significant role in improving overall adaptive functioning and relationships.
Achenbach, T.M. & Edelbrock, C.S. (1983) Manual for Child Behavior Checklist and Revised Child Behavior Profile. University of Vermont Department of Psychiatry, Burlington, VT. Kim, J.A., Szatmari, P., Bryson, S.E., Streiner, D.J., & Wilson, F.J. (2000). The prevalence of anxiety and mood problems among children with autism and Asperger syndrome, Autism, 6(4): 117-132.
Le Couteur, A., Rutter, M., Lord, C., Rios, P., Robertson, S., Holdgrater, M. & Mclennan, J.D. (1989) ‘Autism Diagnostic Interview’, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 19: 363-88.
Summer Camps & Day Events
- Kids bowl for free!
Many local bowling centers and schools are participating in a Kids Bowl Free program this summer. This program is intended to give back to the community by providing a safe, secure, and fun way place for kids to spend time. For more information and to find a participating center near you, go to: www.kidsbowlfree.com
- April 18
Foothill Autism Alliance Family Resource Meeting
Dr. Jerry Kartzinel presents Biomedical Treatment for Autism at Pasadena Child Development Associates, located at 620 North Lake Avenue, 2nd Floor Pasadena, CA 91101. Networking will be from 7:00 – 7:30 pm and Dr. Kartzinel will present from 7:30 – 9:30 pm. For more information, visit:
- April 21
Walk Now for Autism Speaks: Los Angeles
April 21, 2012 The signature fundraising event of Autism Speaks that brings together thousands of participants with the goal of raising funds for autism research and raising awareness about the prevalence of autism, and the need for increased research on this disorder. Location – Rose Bowl – 1001 Rose Bowl Drive, Pasadena, CA 91103 For more information, visit :
- April 26
The Help Group Distinguished Lecture Series Presents The Art & Science Of Conversational Skills For Adolescents & Adults With ASD
Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson, Director of The Help Group-UCLA Autism Research Alliance& UCLA PEERS Program, will provide concrete tools and important information to aid parents, educators and mental health professionals in helping adolescents and adults with ASD effectively improve social skills.
- April 26, Sherman Oaks
$25 for professional CE credits; $10 all others
The Help Group Autism Center, 13164 Burbank Blvd –
Call 818-779-5212 for more information.
- April 26, Sherman Oaks
- May 5, June 16
AMC Sensory Friendly Films
In partnership with Autism Society, AMC theaters provide an opportunity for families to enjoy their favorite films in a safe and accepting environment. Auditoriums have their lights up, sound turned down and audience members are invited to get up and dance, walk, shout or sing!. Upcoming showings include:
- May 5, 2012 – Pirates! Band of Misfits
- June 16, 2012 – Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most wantedFor more information, including a list of participating theaters go to:
- May 19
Vista Del Mar’s Festival of Families
There will be food, music, festivities, games, a petting zoo, video game truck, and more in celebration of families of all abilities. May 19, 2012 from 1:00 – 4:00 PM at Vista Del Mar, Los Angeles, CA. For more information, call 310-836-1223, ext 226. or visit:
- The UCLA CART Autism Affinity Distinguished Lecturer Series
Location – Gonda Neuroscience Building 1st Floor Conference Room #1357
695 Charles E Young Drive South Los Angeles, CA 90024
For further information, please contact Dr. Candace J. Wilkinson at 310-825-9041.
- May 4, 2012
Janine LaSalle, Ph.D. – Genome Center, M.I.N.D. Institute; University of California, Davis “Mapping the Neuronal Methylome and its Implications for Autism”
- June 1, 2012
James McPartland, Ph.D.- Assistant Professor of Child Psychiatry and Psychology, Yale University “Revisiting the Social Motivation Hypothesis: A Developmental Model of Function and Dysfunction in Autism”
- Scientific Lectures: 9:00 -10:00 a.m.
- Community Questions and Discussion: 10:00-10:30 a.m.
- May 4, 2012
- May 11
Supporting Teens & Young Adults in their transition to Independence conference will take place Friday, May 11th, from 7:30am to 4:00p at the American Jewish University, in Los Angeles. This conference is for parents and professionals to support teens and young adults with autism in their transitions to independence. For more information, go to:
- 1st Thursdays
Burbank /SFV Parents of Kids with Autism & Spectrum Disorder Meetup Group
For parents who are looking to connect with other families who have children on the autism spectrum. This meetup is geared towards the inclusion of the entire family in meetups and playdates for special needs kids and everyone in the family. Location serves GFCF Pizza. located in Burbank – Group meets 1st Thursday of every month at 6pm
WWA would like to recognize the following employees for going above and beyond in their roles as behavior instructors:
- Sanam Yaghtin
for dedication to the progress of her clients as demonstrated by providing her case supervisors with frequent updates and asking questions to grow as an instructor. Sanam also goes above and beyond her duties as an instructor by bringing her own materials to engage her clients.
- Ashley Domanesh
for demonstrating the ability to remain calm and professional in the face of challenging situations and settings. Additionally, she is very accepting of feedback, implements suggestions immediately, and submits very thorough and detailed weekly summaries.
- Christine Birket
for taking initiative in promoting her clients’ growth, demonstrating creativity, and displaying a great deal of patience and compassion when faced with complex and challenging situations.
- Isabel Chudicek
for the level of concern and commitment demonstrated towards her client’s progress, her overall enthusiasm, and her creativity with regard to making each session novel and fun, yet functional, for her client.
- Cindy Romero
for the dedication, reliability, and professionalism she has demonstrated in the face of many challenges. Cindy has maintained a positive attitude and remained a team player with a focus on the client’s needs.
- Talar Khosdikian
for her willingness to be a substitute on cases at any location, even on a last-minute basis, and her consistency in communicating with the office in a timely manner.
- Joanna Clarke
for always maintaining a positive attitude and demonstrating a genuine care for her clients. Joanna consistently takes initiative to best promote her clients’ growth and is proactive in her approach.
- Samantha Wood
for remaining consistent, professional, and collaborative in the face of challenging situations. Samantha maintains an open line of communication with her supervisors and maintains a positive outlook in the face of obstacles. She implements positive behavior interventions with accuracy and consistency.
- Ashley Nguyen
for being detail oriented and professional in all written documentations, demonstrating consistent reliability with regard to punctuality and submission of written reports. Ashley maintains excellent communication with her supervisor, displays creativity and self-motivation.
- Tiffany Garcia
for going above and beyond in terms of creating visual stimuli for her clients. Tiffany invents very creative ways to implement new methods of targeting goals and keeps her clients motivated by incorporating fun activities into her sessions.
Staff Appreciation Event:
WWA will be hosting an event to recognize all of our staff for their hard work and dedication during this school year. The event will be held on Tuesday May 29th at 6:00 pm. Additional details will be disseminated to our employees in the upcoming weeks.
Employment Opportunities at WWA
Know anyone that is interested in joining the WWA Team? We are always looking for motivated individuals who are interested in making a difference in a child’s life. We are currently accepting applications for the following positions:
Entry level position working in the home, community, and / or school setting with children on the autism spectrum. Applicant must have a Bachelor’s degree. Experience with autism or children preferred.
Entry level position working in the home, community, and/or school setting with children on the autism spectrum. Applicant must have a Bachelor’s degree. Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Child Development or a related field preferred. Experience with children with autism also preferred and/or a registered MFT intern.
Senior level position working in the home, community, and/or school setting with children on the autism spectrum. Applicant must have Master’s Degree. BCBA certification or in process of obtaining BCBA certification highly preferred. Bilingual also preferred.
For more information, please contact:
Danielle Robichaud, Recruiter & Scheduling Coordinator